An exhibit opening Saturday at a Myrtle Beach art museum is not just bringing artwork — it’s also bringing a message about the plastic that fills the ocean.
“Can’t You Sea?” — an exhibit with artwork made from plastic found in coastal areas around the world — will be on display through September at the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum on Ocean Boulevard.
The exhibit is made up of artwork by six artists — Dianna Cohen, Alejandro Duran, Sayaka Ganz, Pam Longobardi, Aurora Robson and Kirkland Smith — who used discarded plastic as their medium and to bring awareness about pollution in oceans around the world.
“It’s a painful reality,” said artist Pam Longobardi. “I hope this (exhibit) causes a little bit of a wake-up.”
Longobardi, who is based in Atlanta and started collecting plastic in 2006 for her artwork, said she uses plastics with beautiful colors to softly get the message about discarded plastic across to her audience — she doesn’t want to show horror and immediately scare folks.
“I use beauty as a weapon,” she said.
The plastic, she said, is harmful to animals that may mistake it for food.
On display at the museum is her piece “One World Ocean,” made up of more than 500 elements of plastic, like a toothbrush, piece of a comb and surfboard fin.
“It’s pretty meticulous,” she said. “I want people to be able to stay engaged with the material and that’s why I go to this elaborate extent to combine it into a symbol.”
Longobardi collects the plastic herself while traveling around the world and archives each piece with a letter and number.
Other artists’ pieces on display show plastic photographed in the environment, used in sculptures and sewn plastic bags.
A grand opening is set for Saturday, featuring the unveiling at noon of a large octopus sculpture outside of the museum that is full of collected plastic from the area. The exhibit will be on display until Sept. 8. Along with the exhibit are events that compliment the pollution-awareness message from the artwork display, including a lecture series and the KidsArt summer camp.
The art museum is free to visit and open Tuesday through Sunday.
Pat Goodwin, the museum’s executive director, said this exhibition is the first of its kind to be on display at the museum.
“We’re hoping that we can be part of this conversation,” Goodwin said. “Once you’re aware, it gets you to start thinking in a new way. That’s what we want.
“It makes you think about art in a different light. It makes you think about plastic in a different way. If we all do that, just think of the difference we can make.”
A motivating factor in bringing “Can’t You Sea?” to the art museum is its close proximity to the ocean, Goodwin said, adding the museum is one of a few in the world that have an ocean view.
“It’s extremely timely,” Goodwin said of bringing awareness to plastic pollution. “We have to think about reducing and reusing, and what better way to reuse than this?”